Competitors, friends and their families told us that the Games were not only changing lives, but saving lives.The Duke of Sussex
I am sure it will come as no surprise to anyone in this room that I am hugely passionate about the Invictus Games.
I am passionate about the role which sport can play in the recovery of body and mind.
I am passionate about the men and women of our Armed Forces who have served their countries.
And, I am passionate in my support and admiration for the families of those men and women, because they too have served.
In 2013, I visited the Warrior Games in Colorado. It was there that I first saw the impact which sport can play in the recovery of these men and women. I was amazed seeing the fiercest competition turn to respect, understanding and friendship the moment the finish line was crossed. I saw people giving it their all out on the court or in the pool, but then hugging their opponents as brothers in arms.
Seeing this for myself convinced me that we had to enable more injured and ill service men and women to benefit from the power of competition. And we had to find a way to stage the competition that could attract the attention of the world and inspire millions. The idea for the Invictus Games was born.
The journey to the first games was by no means easy: I gave my team 9 months to deliver a concept which few people had heard of and even fewer had seen with their own eyes. But as you know, we succeeded and here we are at the third Invictus Games.
In that first year, what we had hoped but that none of us could have predicted was the way in which the public embraced the competitors and the spirit of the Games. The support was unbelievable and the guys and girls responded by putting on a sporting spectacle unlike anything seen before.
For the competitors, we know that the journey to the Invictus Games is often not an easy one. We are dangling a carrot of sporting glory to help reignite qualities which have been worn down by months and often years of fighting - fighting to find purpose, fighting to reconnect with family, fighting to get fit again, fighting to leave the house and in some cases fighting to stay alive.
Sport of course is not the only answer, but it is a hugely powerful tool. People find motivation and purpose in many different things. But in my mind, there is no denying the impact that teamwork, competition and fun has on someone’s well-being and outlook. The wife of a US competitor wrote to me saying…
“I’d like to say thank you (as the tears roll down my eyes). My husband is on the USA team and when he’s competing I see him smile. A genuine smile. I cry because that’s the one thing I can’t do as his wife. It hurts me but at the same time I try to understand that it’s not me. Our three children we call little warriors because they too have to adapt and overcome. The father, friend they once knew isn’t the same. I wish I would’ve been able to bring them because they could’ve shared in his happiness. Thank you for these games! They truly were a blessing because his smile is something we’ve missed!”
I am delighted that Celina’s research validates such comments. We believed the Games would make a real difference. Competitors, friends and their families told us that the Games were not only changing lives, but saving lives. And now what we believed to be true has been backed up by this high-quality academic research.
Now I have long believed that individuals who wear the uniform are role models for society. Their families understand the true meaning of teamwork, respect, discipline and leadership. And in a world where this is often lacking, I bet the values by which service families live their lives and the example they set for others through these Games, is having a profound effect on their communities and far beyond. Wouldn’t it be great if we could prove that too!